Dental Care in Dogs
Why do dogs need dental care?
Does your favorite canine have "doggie breath?" If so, take a closer look into Fido's mouth. You may notice yellowing of the teeth, reddening of the gums and/or loosening of the gum tissue around the teeth. The yellow discoloration on the teeth is plaque, which is made up of bacteria and proteins in the saliva. Calculus, or tartar, is the mineralization of plaque into a hard deposit on the teeth. Tartar acts as a shield to protect bacteria and allows these organisms to grow in the mouth and cause inflammation, also referred to as gingivitis. If these conditions are left untreated your pet may suffer from irreversible separation of the gum from around the tooth, loss of ligament and bony support of the tooth. This condition is known as advanced periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is painful and is the most common cause of tooth loss in dogs today and is also implicated in kidney and heart disease.
Gingivitis, which is the early stage of periodontal disease, is completely reversed by having your veterinarian perform a dental cleaning, followed by daily brushing and/or oral rinses. Chewing bones, rawhides and supermarket type dog treats designed for 'dental health' do not effectively accomplish the task. Bones can chip teeth and treats put unwanted weight on your pet. There are, however, specially made dental chews for cats and dogs available through your veterinarian that will help to reduce plaque buildup once the teeth have been cleaned by your veterinarian.
Daily brushing should begin during puppyhood, but its never too late to start. Begin by getting your canine used to having your fingers around his or her mouth. Open your pup's mouth every day and massage the gums gently with your finger. These sessions should be short initially and rewarded with a small treat for puppy participation (but do not let your puppy turn this into a biting session). Your puppy will hopefully be comfortable with this after three or four weeks. You can then begin to gently scrub the teeth in circular motion using a small amount of canine-approved toothpaste on either gauze wrapped around your finger or a pediatric toothbrush. Your veterinarian can suggest toothpaste/toothbrush combinations and oral rinses that are available to you.
The mechanical action of brushing your dog's teeth will minimize plaque build-up. This in turn prevents halitosis, periodontal disease, permanent tooth loss, and the spread of oral bacteria to the kidneys, liver and heart. Your dog's overall health will improve as a result of your dedication to daily oral hygiene!